Have you ever slept in a real mountain retreat? Are you curious and want to try this new experience but you don’t know how it works, how to behave and what to put in your backpack to face your first overnight stay at high altitude? Well, you’ve come to the right place because whoever wrote this article as well as having attended many mountain lodges as a client also worked there for a couple of seasons (read my experience here).
First of all, I think it is necessary to make a premise: in this article I do not refer to those pseudo-refuges that are next to the road along the most famous Dolomite passes, but to real mountain refuges (or alpine refuges). Those structures that are, even if kept and managed to offer a hospitality, refreshment and overnight service, are reachable only on foot because they are located in remote areas far from roads, ski lifts, etc. The isolation that characterizes them makes any type supply is much more difficult and onerous than in the plain, so don’t expect to find anything as if you were in a hotel in Milan or Rome!
But don’t worry too much. You will not have certain things but you will discover other things: looking at the stars from the terrace, hearing the ticking of the rain on the roof when you go to sleep, having breakfast at dawn, playing cards with friends in the dim light of a candle are just a few of the many pleasant moments that you can live.
However, it is good to know that the life of refuge is a Spartan life. Only a few structures have bedrooms with sheets, much more often there are common dormitories where one sleeps on wooden planks with mattresses attached to one another. Don’t be afraid to suffer from cold, you will always find enough blankets, in fact in the case of crowded rooms it is easier for you to suffer the heat. The bathroom is strictly in common and only in some shelters, normally in the newer or modern ones, there is the possibility of taking a hot shower. No problem, large washbasins are always available for washing, where you can have a nice rinse. The lights of the shelter are almost always turned off at 10pm. After that hour the silence falls, at least the silence should fall …
What it takes to sleep in a mountain shelter
Given the weight and bulk, avoid using your own sheets at home. Even the sleeping bag does not make much sense as there are already blankets. The best thing is to bring a very light sleeping bag or sleeping bag with you, it takes up very little space and has a very negligible weight.
In the sleeping area it is rightly forbidden to walk with shoes and boots. Even if in many refuges they put at the disposal of the common slippers it is always better to take a couple of very light ones from home like those that are often supplied in hotels.
Frontal battery at hand to be able to move in case of need during the night when the lights are off.
For the hygienic part I recommend:
- Travel kit with toothbrush and toothpaste, small soap and a light synthetic towel.
- Mountain retreat
- My little Anna after her first night at the shelter
- Eat at the shelter
As for eating, it is important to know that many shelters offer the solution of half board (dinner, bed and breakfast). Drinks are charged separately. Normally lunch is packed around the mountains. Absolutely to banish is the behavior of those who bring food from home and then consume it at the table!
Tariff of the refuge
In all CAI shelters there is a special bulletin board showing the tariff. CAI members, upon presentation to the manager of the card with a valid ticket, are entitled to discounts on the price of accommodation and meals. Even if you go to a foreign shelter do not forget the card: you can get discounts if there is an agreement of reciprocity of treatment between the CAI and the foreign association to which the refuge belongs.
Life as a refuge: four rules of good behavior
Always book. Do it if you can with at least a day in advance. If it is true that the door of the shelter is always open, it is also true that a simple phone call is a gesture of courtesy towards the manager who will thus have the opportunity to better organize the provisioning of supplies based on the number of guests who have booked up.
Take your waste downstream. Transporting waste downstream takes time, effort and money. It is therefore a good habit to bring back your own waste: cans, bottles and various waste paper.
Fold the covers. In the morning, before leaving the bunk, it is good to fold used blankets during the night.
Write in the shelter book. In each shelter there is a book of the visited where everyone is invited to write his name, the date of arrival and departure, the origin and the future destination. Those who plan demanding excursions or mountain climbs are required to inform the manager of their plans.
Respect other people and those who work there. In some evenings, especially in the middle of the season, you can really find yourself in many and little space. Behave with discretion, avoiding any conduct that might annoy those around you, respecting the work of the manager in the first place. Arm yourself with patience and leave useless claims at home.